Points of Vulnerability


A leader must always celebrate the strengths and successes of group life, but leaders must also work to define the realities and challenges faced, according to Dr. Marianne E. Inman.

Dr. Marianne E. Inman, president of Central Methodist University in Missouri, keeps a list of items that she calls the school’s “Points of Institutional Vulnerability.” The list is quite public within the college community, especially among key leaders.

At first one might think that such a list is too negative to serve a positive function for leaders and organizations, including local churches. I think just the opposite is the case. The dominant role of a leader is always to celebrate the strengths and successes of group life. But there is an important role for leaders in helping constantly to define the realities being faced.

Leaders have to find diverse ways to accomplish the task of defining reality. I can see a careful use of a “Points of Vulnerability” list as one effective means of encouraging church leaders to understand and address pressing issues that could jeopardize the church’s mission and vitality in the future. The list needs to be prepared carefully and with consultation. Care should be given not to use the list to advance pet projects or to fight personal battles. Think of the list as one that an objective consultant might put together after an analysis of the current state of the congregation.

Setting priorities within the list may also be helpful. In fact, the very exercise of having congregational leaders review the list and establish the points at which the church is most vulnerable could serve an important educational function.

Regularly cataloging, monitoring, and discussing “Points of Vulnerability” is also a good practice for pastors. Stopping to reflect periodically on the question, “Where are we most vulnerable as a congregation?” is a way to look at the church from a broader perspective than current duties and activities.

You may also want to have a companion list called “Points of Opportunity.” There will probably be some overlap between the two documents. A vulnerability can bring with it an opportunity.

However, be clear that different things are at stake with the two lists. Opportunities represent potential for progress, if pursued successfully. But neglecting opportunities will not always hurt a church.

Such is not the case with vulnerabilities. The prospect facing a church that does not address its vulnerabilities is that the church will actually suffer setbacks. Both vulnerabilities and opportunities are important, though often in different ways.

Think about how you might be able to use this idea or some variation on it.

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About Author

Dr. Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

Lovett H. Weems Jr. is senior consultant at the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, distinguished professor of church leadership emeritus at Wesley Theological Seminary, and author of several books on leadership.

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